EU to Fund Three Groundbreaking Research Ideas


Triple EU funding success for RWTH, AMO and the Aachen Graphene & 2D Materials Center


The FET Open funding line of the Future and Emerging Technologies program, which is part of the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation initiative, supports radically new, early-stage research ideas which promise fundamental breakthroughs for new technologies. Out of the 400 FET Open proposals submitted in January 2019, only 53 were approved to receive funding. Five of the 45 projects involving German institutions and companies will be actually coordinated in Germany, three of them by Aachen researchers. These projects are now being launched by RWTH, AMO GmbH, and the Aachen Graphene & 2D Materials Center.

The WiPLASH project aims to exploit the unique conductive properties of graphene to demonstrate the feasibility and potential of wireless on-chip communication. This could be a breakthrough in increasing parallelism and energy efficiency in hardware architectures. Today, the standard strategy is to tightly integrate multiple, specialized computing and storage units into a single architecture. Unfortunately, however, the current methods of interconnecting the different units are inherently inflexible.

WiPLASH seeks to pioneer wireless on-chip communication to solve this bottleneck and create architectural plasticity. As Professor Renato Negra, Chair of High Frequency Electronics at RWTH and partner in the WiPLASH program, explains: “Our goal is to develop graphene-based circuit blocks for miniaturized, tunable, and ultra-high frequency wireless communications. We want to realize reconfigurable chip-scale front ends based on these circuits and demonstrate the potential of this approach by using it in a least one key application."

The ORIGENAL project is one of the two FET Open projects coordinated by AMO GmbH. It proposes a radically new approach to further increase the number of transistors on a chip. "The idea itself is quite simple," said Daniel Neumaier, team leader of the Graphene and 2D Materials group at AMO and project coordinator of ORIGENAL. "We want to exploit the properties of certain two-dimensional materials to create extremely thin integrated circuits on a thin-film substrate and then fold the substrate, much like origami, to stack up to thousands circuits on top of each other.”

ORIGENAL draws on the expertise of four research groups in Germany, Austria, Italy and Finland and applies an interdisciplinary approach that includes contributions from the fields of materials science, electrical and mechanical engineering, physics, and chemistry.

This interdisciplinary effort can result in enormous benefits. More transistors on a chip means more complex and powerful devices, especially for applications such as neuromorphic computing, which are based on tightly interconnected architectures, such as those to be developed in the ORIGENAL project.

Radically New Technology Lines

“The WiPLASH and ORIGENAL projects are examples of how research on two-dimensional materials can open up radically new technology lines that contribute to strengthening Europe's technological leadership," says Professor Max Lemme, who holds the Chair for Electronic Devices at RWTH and is managing director of AMO GmbH. "These two projects are also in line with the vision of the Aachen Graphene & 2D Materials Center, which acts as a kind of incubator for such new ideas, at least for the Aachen contribution to the project". Both Lemme and Negra are founding members of the Center, which brings together the complementary competencies and facilities of Aachen's leading research groups in the field of two-dimensional materials to close the gap between basic research and real-world application.

AMO also coordinates the POSEIDON project. In POSEIDON, the scientists will address a major challenge faced by silicon nanophotonics today, the realization of a (cost-) efficient light source integrated into a silicon microchip. Such a device will have a major impact on faster and more energy-efficient data transmission, which has the potential to drastically reduce power dissipation in data centers.

To achieve this ambitious goal, AMO has joined forces with an interdisciplinary consortium of six research groups from Germany, Spain and Great Britain as well as an SME from the Czech Republic. Together they will develop a new technological platform for integrating active colloidal components into photonic and electronic devices. "Such a technology will open up groundbreaking opportunities not only for optical data transmission, but also for the development of cost-effective and energy-efficient sensors for industrial and biomedical applications," said Anna Lena Giesecke, group leader of Nanophotonics at AMO and project coordinator of POSEIDON.